Mike’s Top Ten of 1956
What we need to talk about for 1956 is the biggest thing in popular culture — rock ‘n’ roll. Music changed forever in the 50s, and this feels like the signature year to bring it up. Elvis’s first movie — Love Me Tender — came out this year, and there was a proliferation of films with rock ‘n’ roll stars in them performing their hits. This goes back to what I brought up in a previous year — teenagers were now the target audience. So they put all their favorite stars in the films. It’s actually a great time capsule, watching those films. You actually get to see these stars perform their hits.
The other thing — at least for me — about 1956 is the amount of straight up hidden gems that are in it. Sure, the big films are represented, as they should be. But my top ten has at least two films that most people haven’t heard of and another film that most people haven’t seen. And there’s also amazing stuff below that as well.
This is one of those years where just about every single movie going down to tier two is something I really enjoy.
Mike’s Top Ten of 1956
The Girl Can’t Help It
The King and I
A Man Escaped
The Man Who Never Was
The Ten Commandments
Written on the Wind
The Wrong Man
- Honorable Mention to: The Red Balloon
11-20: Around the World in 80 Days, Baby Doll, The Bad Seed, Bigger Than Life, The Bitter Stems, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Killing, Lust for Life, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Somebody Up There Likes Me
Tier two: Anastasia, Attack!, The Bold and the Brave, The Catered Affair, Carousel, Crime in the Streets, Forbidden Planet, Forever Darling, Friendly Persuasion, The Harder They Fall, High Society, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Man in the Vault, Miracle in the Rain, Moby Dick, The Mountain, The Solid Gold Cadillac, There’s Always Tomorrow, Trapeze, War and Peace
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1. The Searchers
“You wanna quit, Ethan?”
“That’ll be the day.”
Universally regarded as the single greatest western ever made. One of the single most important films ever made. One of the greatest films ever made.Probably the best film both John Ford and John Wayne made, together and separately.
It’s such a simple story with so many complex layers and characters and overtones. The beauty of the western is how it can tell such a straightforward story and speak volumes within that story. A man returns to his family three years after the Civil War. Soon after, his family is murdered and his niece is taken by Comanches. And he goes out looking for her to bring her home.
The true beauty of this movie is how unsettling it is. John Wayne’s character is a former Confederate soldier who refuses to acknowledge the result of the war, he fought down in Mexico and did some stuff that seems really shady, he’s openly a racist, he may or may not have had an affair with his brother’s wife, and by the end of the movie, you actually don’t want him to succeed. It’s not as straightforward as most westerns with similar plots would be. It really makes you question all the values of the genre and what they really stand for.
Quite simply, this is a masterpiece and anyone even remotely into film owes it to themselves to see this.
“You shoulda shot that fella a long time ago. Now he’s too rich to kill.”
This movie, to me, fits in the mold of the greatest epics ever made. Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia. This should be in that conversation.
Rock Hudson is a cattle rancher who has a vast cattle fortune. During a trip to buy a prize stallion, he meets and falls in love with Elizabeth Taylor. They move back to his ranch and begin a family. And there’s a lot of stuff that happens — gender politics, the pressures and stresses of a new marriage and a new environment. We learn that Hudson has a feud of sorts with James Dean, one of the ranch hands on the property. Hudson wants to get rid of Dean, but he can’t because his sister refuses to let him go. After Hudson’s sister’s death, she bequeaths some land just outside the property to Dean. And on that land, he strikes oil. Hudson, coming from cattle for generations, refuses to mine the land for oil, which allows Dean to become an incredibly rich man. So now, both men are rich and both can’t stand each other. And the feud continues for decades, as Hudsons’s family grows. And the film ultimately becomes about racism.
I love how sprawling it is and how it tackles so many different subjects. There’s one scene in the film I love, where all the men are sitting in the parlor, drinking whiskey, smoking cigars and ‘talking shop’. And Taylor comes up like, “What are you guys talking about?” As if to join. And Hudson tries to get her out of there because they really don’t want a woman in on the conversation. And she stands her ground, like, “What, just because I’m a woman I’m not allowed to talk about all this bullshit?” She calls them out on their veiled misogyny. I love that moment.
Then she and Hudson have this huge fight, that everyone in the house can hear. But ultimately it ends in sex. Which leads to one of the greatest transitions I’ve ever seen, which is so clearly code for “We just had amazing sex” that I can’t even believe they allowed it into the movie. There’s nothing overtly dirty about it, but that’s how the best ones are.
This movie is a masterpiece and I can’t believe it’s not considered to be on the level with the other films like it.
3. The Rainmaker
“Let me ask you, are you pretty?”
“No! I’m plain.”
“There’s no such thing as a plain woman.”
Ask me my favorite films that I knew nothing about before starting my Oscar Quest but ended up loving, and I guarantee you this will show up really quickly on that list. Because I did not know this movie existed whatsoever and the only reason I saw it was because Hepburn was nominated for it. And even then, had no idea what to make of it.
The film is about Burt Lancaster as a man named Starbuck, who is mostly a traveling con artist. He goes around, selling all these wares and things. Like, “Buy this contraption and it’ll warn you of when tornadoes will come.” A complete charlatan. He’s been run out of just about every town he’s ever been in. He shows up to this one town that’s been overdue of rain for way too long. He tells them, “Give me $100, and I guarantee you I will make sure it rains.” They assume he’s lying, but with no other option (since without rain soon, all the crops and animals will die and they’ll all be screwed), they agree to the terms. So Lancaster takes up residence at the sheriff’s house and begins his “work.”
Now, that’s the set up. What the film is really about is Katharine Hepburn as the sheriff’s daughter. She’s an aging spinster who has never gotten married because she’s too — a lot of things. She’s too smart, she’s too stubborn, she’s too particular, she’s too overbearing. (Most people now would see her as a strong, independent woman who demands that her partner be the same. Back then, she was the type of woman no man would want.) She meets Lancaster and he encourages her to come out of her shell, and see the beauty inside of her and actually learn to love herself.
This is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. It’s so amazing. This will make anyone feel better about themselves. It’s so uplifting. And the ending is incredible. I love the ending to this movie so much.
I consider this one of the greatest hidden gems in the history of cinema. I won’t force people to watch this, because it might not be for everyone. But I’m telling you — for a movie that I didn’t know existed, I’m pretty certain most of you don’t know about this. And this is a movie that has so many potential returns on investment that I think it’s worth seeing by all. Because, like me, you never know when you’ll encounter a film that you’ll want to go back to for a long time.
4. The Girl Can’t Help It
“Darlin’, oh my darlin’
In that prison cell I’d be
Thinking of the day that I’d get out
And hold you close to me
But what it is I always see?
One rock, two rocks
Three rocks, four rocks
Rock pile dust is on my shoes
I’m the guy just born to lose
When I hear the siren blow
I get those blues”
In a weird way, this is one of the most important movies in the history of cinema. And in music.
By this point, I feel like all the history textbooks when they talk about this era — they will mention this movie.
There’s really three distinct pieces to this film one has to discuss. The first is that it was intended as a vehicle for Jayne Mansfield — who was gonna be the new sex symbol to rival Marilyn Monroe. So the film is written around her, it’s based on her character, the title song is about her, and everything in the film serves to make her look good. The opening number features her walking down the street and there are so many references to male (and animal, if memory serves) ejaculation it’s actually quite astounding. It’s also nuts that the plot is what it is.
To get that out of the way: Tom Ewell (fresh off The Seven-Year Itch with Monroe) is a down-on-his-luck talent agent. Edmund O’Brien is a gangster who wants to get his girlfriend, Mansfield, into show business. Only Mansfield wants nothing to do with show business. It’s not the typical gangster’s girl plot, where she’s talentless and really wants to be successful. Mansfield has no particular singing talent and doesn’t care to sing. She’d rather be a housewife. (Which just holds up so well, as you can imagine.) Meanwhile, O’Brien forces her into this line of work, leading to all sorts of great situations. O’Brien ends up stealing the movie at the end.
Okay, so that’s the general plot. But there are two other elements we need to discuss. The first is CinemaScope. This movie features a very famous introduction where Tom Ewell comes out and explains how the film will be presented. First the film is shown in old-school Academy ratio and in black and white. Like most films typically were. But he says the film is actually gonna be in CinemaScope. And then he pushes two set pieces away and the screen goes completely wide. Which actually gives you the full idea of the scale and is one of those great, simple visual tricks that harkens back to the days of Méliès. Then the film becomes Technicolor, which is just a wonderful moment. It’s ones of those things that is actually a teaching device for people who don’t fully understand what this stuff is, and it’s just endured over time as one of those big moments in cinema history.
Now, the third element — and really the most important one as it relates to history — rock ‘n’ roll. The rock ‘n’ roll era is such a huge part of the 50s, and there were rock ‘n’ roll films that came out before this — namely Rock Around the Clock — but this is the one that is the epitome of that kind of film and the one that best captures the spirit of the performers. Why? Because the performers are literally in the movie.
Little Richard actually performs songs in this movie. Gene Vincent performs in this movie. Fats Domino does “Blue Monday.” The Platters. Eddie Cochran. There are like 20 songs in this movie performed by the actual bands that made them. So you get a snapshot of what rock ‘n’ roll was like at the time. But, more importantly — you have to realize just how influential this was on the world and the music industry in general. To be even more specific, this movie was no only a huge influence on a young boy named John Lennon, but when he was holding auditions for his band and another boy named Paul McCartney performed one of the songs he saw in this movie, that was the impetus for John choosing him to join the band.
So I can tell you how much fun this movie is and how important it is, but also — this movie helped create The Beatles.
5. Written on the Wind
“Welcome to Hadley. The town and the family.”
Go nuts with that image, psych majors. It’s intended.
This is Douglas Sirk at his most playful. I don’t think this is his deepest film. I don’t think the themes resonate here as deeply as they do with All That Heaven Allows and Imitation of Life, but man, is this one fun as shit. This one gets pretty over the top, but that’s the joy of it.
It’s about Rock Hudson as a poor boy who befriends a rich kid. And as they grow up, he essentially becomes part of their family. Their father is an oil magnate who essentially owns an entire town. And by that I mean — the entire town is named after him. Robert Stack plays the man’s son, Hudson’s best friend. He’s an alcoholic playboy who does absolutely zero work and goes around picking up women everywhere he goes. Hudson, meanwhile, actually does work for Stack’s father and the family company and is the one that actually cares about everything. So much so that Stack’s father actually considers Hudson more of a son to him than Stack.
The film is about Hudson meeting Lauren Bacall and falling for her, but Stack being the one that ends up wooing her with all his money and such. So she ends up marrying Stack, even though she doesn’t love him, and a love triangle plays out. And there’s the matter of Dorothy Malone, Stack’s sister. She’s been in love with Hudson for years, and he’s never taken her seriously. Meanwhile, she’s a nymphomaniac (not kidding). The shit that happens in this movie is so great.
This has some of the most over-the-top sexual imagery in all of film (see the image above). There’s a great moment involving a rocking horse that is so fucking funny. Not to mention that this movie features a sequence that essentially has lurid dancing become the primary reason for a death. It’s so nuts. I love it.
One of Sirk’s best films. Malone won an Oscar for it. Stack was nominated. It’s amazing. It looks great, it’s fun as hell for all the right and wrong reasons, and this is one of those Douglas Sirk films that has become an all time classic because of how it both celebrates the tropes of the melodrama while also subverting them at the same time.
6. The Man Who Never Was
“Suppose I wanted to put a dead body in the sea, and let it float ashore, and have it accepted by the people who find it as the victim of an air crash at sea. What sort of body would I need?”
Are you guys familiar with Operation Mincemeat? The British, in order to spread disinformation about the impending Allied invasion of Sicily, got the body of a dead soldier, placed a bunch of personal items on it to make it look authentic, and then put in false plans to make the enemy think they were gonna invade Greece instead.
This film is about that operation. But it’s a procedural. It’s like a heist movie. It’s about how they pulled it off. So you begin with the idea, running it up the flagpole, getting clearance, etc. But then what they have to do is get a body and get the family’s permission to use the body without telling them what it’s for. Imagine that. Having to go to a family and say, “Your son died, and we want to use his body but we can’t tell you why or to what end.” Then they have to create this entire identity for the body different from what it actually is, and make it real enough that it would check out once they find the body. They then have to figure out just what to put on the body to make it look completely realistic and not staged at all. And all while doing this, they have to not only think of every minor detail to make sure nothing trips them up, but they also have to make sure no one finds out they’re even doing this.
This movie is so great. Think of all the reasons you love a heist movie — watching them plan it and test out all these methods they’re gonna use, go through trial runs, etc. This is all of that. It’s absolutely captivating, and is one of the great hidden gems of the 50s that almost no one knows about now. I saw this movie purely by chance and only because I was specifically watching movies from the 50s. I can’t imagine most people would simply just find this on their own and know to watch it.
Trust me on this one — you’re gonna love it.
7. The Ten Commandments
“Let my people go!”
This is the gold standard for religious epics. Cecil B. DeMille’s greatest film. Arguably Charlton Heston’s greatest performance (though you also have Ben-Hur to contend with there).
This movie is absolutely stunning and is one of the most gorgeous movies ever shot. And it’s one of those films that everyone sees just because it’s so ubiquitous. Pretty much everyone grows up knowing the story of Moses (I, personally, learned it all through the Rugrats Passover special, which I will still say is better than this movie, but that’s neither here nor there. But we all know it is). And I feel like — and that might just be my experience talking — so many people grew up with this movie on TV or as one of those movies you watched around Easter when it’s on all the time, that everyone has memories of seeing it as a child.
It’s one of the most famous stories ever told, one of the most iconic films ever made, and, in its own way, is a masterpiece. You can’t deny how great this movie is.
8. The King and I
“Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!”
A double dose of Yul Brynner. First Ramses, now King Mongkut.
Another one of the most iconic films ever made. They made this story at least three major times. This is the only musical version, and I suspect will be the only musical version of this story because how could they ever possibly top this?
The story is baed on the film (and actual story) of Anna and the King of Siam, about Anna Leonowens, an English woman, who goes to tutor the king of Siam’s children, as he wants them taught in the western ways. One of those things where she’s progressive and has a particular way of teaching, and he’s very traditional, but despite that they come to an understanding and a real mutual respect for one another.
One of the most beautiful films ever shot. The set design and costumes are stunning in this movie. And this is right in that period — I would say 1956 through 1962 are the years where the films and the color stock they used hold up as the greatest of all time. This era and the initial 1938 to 1944 era are the two where the movies look absolutely stunning now when you go back and see them. It’s those two eras and then anything Powell and Pressburger did.
Also one of the most iconic musicals of all time. Yul Brynner’s most iconic performance (sorry, Magnificent Seven fans, this wins), which won him his Oscar, and just one of those great movies that everyone enjoys.
9. A Man Escaped
“Do you believe in luck?”
“I used to. It didn’t work out.”
You know how I always say that prison films are always interesting? It’s true.
This is a prison escape film. If you love the movie Escape from Alcatraz, you’ll love this movie. It’s so good.
It’s about a World War II French Resistance fighter who gets thrown into prison by the Nazis and begins engineering an escape. And the film is literally just that.
This movie is absolutely incredible. One of the most captivating movies ever made. An all-time great.
10. The Wrong Man
“An innocent man has nothing to fear, remember that.”
One of the great underrated Hitchcock films. There are two levels to Hitchcock hidden gems. The first level is stuff like Lifeboat and Rope, which people know about and simply just overlook in favor of the really major ones, like North by Northwest and Vertigo. This is the level below that one. Where people overlooked the first stuff because there’s just so much there you don’t get to it first. This is one that actually people either don’t know about or simply haven’t seen. But it’s also one of the great ones.
I can always understand when people haven’t seen stuff like Capricorn One, or The Trouble with Harry or even Saboteur or Stage Fright. They’re all good, they’re all solid, but I get it if people haven’t seen them. But this one really holds up among his greatest films. There are a nice handful of his films that really should be on that tier of Lifeboat and Rope, and this is one of them. (For reference: Marnie is another one on that level.)
Henry Fonda is an innocent man who is picked up for multiple homicides. There’s a man committing murder who seemingly fits his exact description. So he’s picked up. And the film is about how terrifying it is to be accused of something you did not do, but everyone else seems to think you did.
The photo above is a scene where Fonda is taken around to places where the killer was. And essentially he’s being identified by witnesses. So he’s meant to walk into the store and walk out, and the owners are gonna tell the cops, “Yeah, that’s him.” And Fonda has no clue what’s going on, because he didn’t do anything. And there’s a great moment where he’s thrown into a prison cell, and he looks all around and becomes acutely aware of the heat from the light above him, and all the noises, and the small space he’s in. It’s one of Hitchcock’s single best scenes.
The film, by the way, is ultimately about him being accused of being this murderer and how his life actually falls apart because of it. It’s based on an actual story. Hitchcock found it in the paper and wanted to turn it into a film. (Because it’s entirely up his alley, when you see it.) He based that prison cell scene from the time his father had him put in prison after he did something bad. (There’s some story where he misbehaved and his father asked the police to put him in the cell for some time so he would understand the severity of what he did. And that was one of those things that stuck with Hitchcock for the rest of his life.)
Also, the shots of Fonda in the back of the squad car, having no clue what’s going on and being given no hints, were used as the inspiration for the visuals of Taxi Driver. Those shots of De Niro looking in the rear view at his passengers.
I feel like a lot of people haven’t seen this, even people who love Hitchcock stuff. So trust me when I say this belongs up there with his absolute best work that everyone knows about.
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Honorable Mention: The Red Balloon
It’s a short, and I don’t count shorts the same as features, because it’s a different discipline. Like documentaries. But when a short is incredible, I gotta mention it. And this is the greatest short ever made. The only short (and the only movie without dialogue) to ever win for Best SCREENPLAY. That’s how good this is.
This is the inspiration for everything that Pixar has ever done, and it’s one of the most magical films ever made.
Around the World in 80 Days — I’d call it the biggest film of the year, but it’s pretty clear The Ten Commandments holds that title. This is still a very big film and your Best Picture winner for 1956. It’s a three-hour adventure that spans the globe and shows you a bunch of exotic locales. Famous stars and cameos galore. It’s a really fun film.
Baby Doll — A great film that no one knows about. Based on Tennessee Williams and directed by Elia Kazan. Carroll Baker is an immature virgin who was basically sold into marriage by her father to Karl Malden, a cotton gin owner. He promised her father that he wouldn’t sleep with her until she was 20, and he’s counting down the days. He spies on her when she bathes, that type of shit. She, meanwhile, still acts like a child and sleeps in a crib. And the film is about Malden patiently awaiting her upcoming birthday while also in a feud with Eli Wallach, a competitor, who shows up and decides to try to deflower Malden’s wife to get back at him. It’s so good. Carroll Baker is amazing as the title character, and Malden and Wallach are also incredible here. One of the great hidden gems of the 50s.
The Bad Seed — This is the original “psycho child” film. It’s about a family whose daughter is the child of a convicted serial killer. The family begins to wonder if the daughter inherited her mother’s… tendencies. The girl begins to show real sociopathic inclinations, and things just get way worse over the course of the film. Nancy Kelly stars as the mother. Patty McCormack is awesome as the little girl. Eileen Heckart is fantastic as the mother of a child in the girl’s class that the girl may have (though clearly) killed. This movie gets so fucked up by the end that you’re actively shouting at the screen for someone to kill this child. It’s so good. One of the great thriller gems of the 50s.
Bigger Than Life — One of Nicholas Ray’s most enduring films. A Technicolor melodrama that almost rivals anything Douglas Sirk made. Though while Sirk is more about subverting social norms, Ray is more about getting into the deeper psychology and making things realistic rather than over-the-top. James Mason plays a guy who is diagnosed with what he is told is a fatal heart condition. He’s given a cortisone treatment to counteract it, and begins to make a miraculous recovery. Though pretty soon the drug begins affecting his sanity, and he turns into an overbearing psychotic because of it. It’s great. It’s shot in CinemaScope and looks beautiful. Ray does these crazy closeups to show how nuts Mason is becoming. And it’s also secretly a film about mental illness and the overuse of prescription drugs (which is still an issue). This is one of those movies that might well have been a top ten in another year. It’s an all-time classic.
The Bitter Stems — An Argentinian film noir that I saw at that noir festival they do out here in LA. I don’t think you can see it with subtitles otherwise. It was awesome. It’s about a journalist and an immigrant who team up on a get-rich quick scheme (which basically involves scamming people out of money by starting a fake school). The journalist begins to suspect his partner of lying — saying he has a son back in his home country, etc — and thinks he has designs on his money. So he does what needs to be done. So imagine his surprise when the man’s actual son (named Jarvis — pronounced “Harvis” in the film. Which is something that, trust me, after you see it, you will not forget) shows up. It’s really great. The film looks incredible. If you ever get the chance to see a print of this with subtitles, take it.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers — Perhaps the classic Cold War sci fi movie. People get taken over by plant creatures. Everyone knows the story, because it’s been remade at least three times since this. Most people see the Donald Sutherland version, but they’re all worth seeing because they all have a different message. Each time, the “invasion” means something different. This one’s clearly about communism. It’s also one of the greatest sci fi movies ever made.
The Killing — Stanley Kubrick’s first masterpiece. This one is one of the best noirs ever made. Sterling Hayden is a crook who plans one last robbery before he’s done for good. He plans and executes the robbery of a race track. And naturally, as all noirs go, things don’t end well. This one features one of the most iconic final scenes of all time. It’s great. And highly influential, as most of Kubrick’s stuff tends to me.
Lust for Life — This is a Vincente Minnelli biopic of Vincent Van Gogh starring Kirk Douglas. That’s really all you need to know. And Anthony Quinn is in it and won an Oscar for his role. It’s a terrific drama.
The Man Who Knew Too Much — Hitchcock. He’s entirely in color by now. Psycho is his last black-and-white film. Which… nice note to go out on there. But this movie looks fucking stunning. Jimmy Stewart and his family (Doris Day plays his wife) are on vacation in Morocco. And after he accidentally stumbles on an assassination plot, his son is kidnapped, and he has to go find the conspirators and get his son back. It’s terrific. One of Hitchcock’s best (though he has like twelve “best” films). The best thing about it is that it gave us (incongruously, given the tone of the film) one of the most famous songs of all time — Day’s “Que Sera, Sera.”
Somebody Up There Likes Me — A Robert Wise-directed boxing biopic of Rocky Graziano. Starring Paul Newman. You in yet? It details him from childhood, when he has to overcome a troubled youth, being in gangs and going to prison, to when he goes to the army and starts fighting simply because he needs money, to his eventual rise to middleweight champion. It’s a very good movie. One of the best boxing films of all time. Also has Pier Angeli, Eileen Heckart, Sal Mineo and Robert Loggia and Steve McQueen in early, uncredited roles.
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- The Bold and the Brave
- The Catered Affair
- Crime in the Streets
- Forbidden Planet
- Forever, Darling
- Friendly Persuasion
- The Harder They Fall
- High Society
- The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
- Man in the Vault
- Miracle in the Rain
- Moby Dick
- The Mountain
- The Solid Gold Cadillac
- There’s Always Tomorrow
- War and Peace
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is a fantastic drama starring Gregory Peck as a man struggling to support his family and dealing with being a workaholic. He’s an ex-soldier, and is haunted by memories of the war, and the memories of an affair he had while overseas. This is a real gem. Fredric March and Jennifer Jones are also in it, as are Keenan Wynn and Lee J. Cobb. Seek this one out, it’s terrific. High Society is a musical version of The Philadelphia Story, with Bing Crosby in the Cary Grant role, Grace Kelly in the Hepburn role, Frank Sinatra in the Jimmy Stewart role and Celeste Holm in the Ruth Hussey role. It’s a lot of fun.
Anastasia is a similar story to the animated movie most of you grew up with. After the murder of Czar Nicholas and his family, rumors persisted that his daughter survived. So ten years later when Ingrid Bergman, a suicidal amnesiac who bears a striking resemblance to the girl, surfaces, Yul Brynner decides to use it to his advantage and pass her off as the real thing. The film looks great and won Bergman her second Oscar. Attack! is a great Robert Aldrich war movie with Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin and Jack Palance. It’s about a platoon of men whose commanding officer is in over his head and tensions begin running high among them.
The Harder They Fall is Humphrey Bogart’s final screen performance. He plays a sportswriter hired by a crooked promoter to hype up his new boxer. Crime in the Streets is a juvenile delinquency film. James Whitmore is a social worker who tries to help kids in gangs and keep them on the straight and narrow. John Cassavetes stars as the leader of the gang. Forbidden Planet is one of the great cult sci fi films of the 50s. Leslie Nielson stars in it! And Robbie the Robot is a pretty famous character. Forever, Darling is a Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz rom com about a married couple going through difficulties. Help soon arrives in the form of her guardian angel — who just happens to look exactly like James Mason. Apparently it had been originally written for William Powell and Myrna Loy, and then Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
Miracle in the Rain is a sweet little romance that’s hardly remembered today. Jane Wyman is a lonely woman who meets Van Johnson, a soldier, during a rainy day in New York. She is charmed by him, and the two strike up a relationship. Another movie that is a real hidden gem of this decade. Man in the Vault is a noir about a locksmith who gets forced to help with a bank robbery. The Mountain is about a plane that crashes in the Alps. Robert Wagner decides to go up there and rob the people that were killed in the crash. He enlists his brother, Spencer Tracy, a great climber, to help him. It’s great. Mountain climbing movies are a sub-genre that I love. And this one’s a lot of fun.
Friendly Persuasion is a great film. It’s about Quakers. And it’s great. William Wyler directed it. Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire play the parents, and Anthony Perkins plays their oldest son. The first half of the film details their day to day life. A lot of fun vignettes and scenarios. Eventually, the Civil War makes its way to their doorstep and Perkins must decide whether or not he’s going to fight. This, of course, would break the Quaker vow of nonviolence, so it’s a big deal. Really great film. Better than you’d suspect when you hear it’s about Quakers. Trapeze is a Carol Reed drama about a love triangle between trapeze artists. Burt Lancaster is the seasoned veteran and Tony Curtis is his risk-taking protégé. Gina Lollobrigida is a femme fatale who tempts Curtis and creates a rift between him and Lancaster. I really enjoyed this one.
The Catered Affair is a great little movie. Based on a Paddy Chayefsky teleplay and written by Gore Vidal, it stars Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Fitzgerald and Rod Taylor. Borgnine is a Brooklyn cab driver and Davis is his wife. He’s been saving for years to own his own cab. But then his daughter (Reynolds) gets engaged, and Davis decides she’s gonna throw a giant wedding for her. Which causes all sorts of issues, since Davis is really the only one who wants a big wedding. The Bold and the Brave is about a group of soldiers in Italy during World War II. I’m not really sure what the plot is — the part I always remember is Mickey Rooney as a soldier who runs a floating crap game up and down the front. Another fun piece of trivia: the guy who created Alvin and the Chipmunks co-wrote this.
Moby Dick is John Huston’s version of the Melville novel, with Gregory Peck as Ahab. It’s good. Peck is miscast, but he does an admirable job with it. There’s Always Tomorrow is a Douglas Sirk melodrama with Fred MacMurray as a married man who gets bored with his wife (Joan Bennett) and has an affair with an old girlfriend (Barbara Stanwyck). War and Peace is a big budget adaptation of the novel, directed by King Vidor and starring Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer. Looks great, very classy. Not the best adaptation of the novel, but one I like because of the stars. Carousel is an adaptation of the famous musical about a carnival barker who dies and is allowed to come back for one day so he can make things right with his daughter. Looks great. The Solid Gold Cadillac is a Judy Holliday film. She only made like 8 movies, but she’s always wonderful in them and they’re all quiet entertaining. She plays a woman who owns some marginal stock in a company and goes to their shareholder meetings and annoys all the crooked board of directors with constant questions, wondering why they all make so much money and do nothing. Trying to get rid of her, they give her a position, hoping to bury her within the company. Doesn’t work. Comedy ensues. It’s a lot of fun.
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